Many organizations are already working to advance high-quality postsecondary CS education at every level. CEOs do not have to reinvent the wheel, but can fund and partner with experienced providers and consultants.
Invest in organizations that connect talent from underrepresented groups to tech careers
Increase support for building technical talent pools for your workforce by promoting systemic reform and funding women and minority students at institutions of higher education.
Establish relationships with institutions that graduate Native American, Black, and Latinx students. Promote opportunities for paid internships, “sprinternships,” and apprenticeships with your company.
Fund intermediary programs and organizations to help build pathways into tech for underserved students.
SPOTIFY’S TECHNOLOGY FELLOWSHIP PROGRAM
Spotify’s Technology Fellowship Program is aimed at hiring engineers just entering the professional tech field from nontraditional backgrounds. The idea for the program originated at a company-wide hack week in 2016. Spotify engineers noticed that graduates from coding boot camps and other nontraditional educational backgrounds were not getting through programming interviews to receive job offers. They realized that while boot camp graduates received intense coding tutorials, they had not developed the applied engineering experience one needed to succeed in an interview and be hired.
The Fellowship, which launched in New York City, is designed to give candidates the necessary practical experience. For 18 weeks, program participants—about eight engineers—operate as a team within Spotify while receiving mentoring, personal, and professional development from various employees. To identify candidates, the Fellowship partners with NYC Tech Talent Pipeline to source talent, focusing on people who are self-taught, attended a coding boot camp, or have degrees from community colleges.
The results have been strong. Spotify has hired 93% of program participants for full-time positions, and they have come from a variety of backgrounds and life experiences. Moreover, the program has given the company’s engineers the opportunity to serve as mentors and develop their own leadership skills.
One reason the program has been so successful is that participants are supported at every phase, building high levels of trust. The culture is to acknowledge that the work isn’t easy and that failure is an opportunity to learn. Workshops explicitly tackle challenges like imposter syndrome and maintaining a growth mindset. The goal is to make people feel emotionally safe and professionally supported so they can develop their skills without fear or intimidation.
After four successful years in New York, the program is expanding to London and Stockholm (Spotify’s headquarters). Over time, the Fellowship will continue to build strong feedback loops with NYC Tech Talent Pipeline and coding boot camps in order to strengthen CS curricula and create more pathways for engineers from diverse backgrounds.
There isn’t just one pathway into a career in tech. Spotify introduced its Technology Fellowship Program after it was presented as an idea at a company-wide hack week in 2016. The program is aimed at hiring engineers entering the tech industry from nontraditional backgrounds.
PROMOTING SYSTEMIC CHANGE FOR UNDERGRADUATE AND GRADUATE PROGRAMS IN COMPUTING FIELDS: NCWIT EXTENSION SERVICES
The National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT) Extension Services for Undergraduate and Graduate Programs1 are initiatives for addressing the severe gender imbalance in computer science. The undergraduate intervention model has been successfully deployed in 135 computing departments, while the graduate program is in its pilot phase, partnering with two large computer and information science colleges. Each provides a research-based model of strategic systemic reform and customized consultation, taking into account local policies and conditions. The programs have demonstrated positive outcomes for attracting and retaining women in computing.
Johnson & Johnson funded NCWIT Extension Services for Undergraduate Programs to support a computer science department from which it regularly hires tech talent. In its first four years of change efforts, the department increased the percentage of CS bachelor’s degrees awarded to women from 14% to 19%.
Google funded the development of the NCWIT Extension Services for Graduate Programs and supported the pilot program with two large PhD programs2 located in colleges of computing. Pilot institutions are examining what’s working to recruit and retain students from underrepresented groups, as well as identifying barriers to admission and retention through graduation. Data and analysis will support strategic plans for institutionalizing change.
Image Source: NCWIT Extension Services for Undergraduate and Graduate Programs.Footnotes:
- See NCWIT Extension Services Information Sheet. https://ncwit.org/program/highered-programs/extension-services/.
- NCWIT. Advance Women in Research Careers: NCWIT Extension Services for Graduate Programs. https://wpassets.ncwit.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/28160424/advancewomeninresearchcareers_ncwitesgradprograms.pdf
The National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT) Extension Services for Undergraduate and Graduate Programs are initiatives for addressing the severe gender imbalance in computer science.